When the phone rings, you never expect it to be the representatives of a major syndicated game show. Not that we were complaining when, nearly a year after our audition, the representatives from "Jeopardy!" called to tell us we were going to appear during the final week of the 1999-2000 season. A couple of weeks later, we were winging our way to LA.
On the plane to California, we sat next to an extremely attractive woman. From Sweden, no less! Why did stuff like this never happen to us when we were single? Here we were, with this awesome icebreaker, too. At least, we thought it was an awesome icebreaker. Turns out being a contestant on an American trivia show is less of an aphrodisiac to the Nordic set than we might have thought. (There is a certain sub-culture of Alex Trebek mustache fetsihists among the youth of Albania, but that's a whole 'nother thing.) Still, it did give us something to chat about during the five-hour flight.
"By the way," we asked as we deplaned at LAX, "I know I should know this, but what is the capital of Sweden."
"Right." Hey, you never knew what might come in handy during "Final Jeopardy!"
"Jeopardy!" taped two days a week, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, five shows each day. We showed up on Tuesday and met up with other prospective contestants from all over the nation. One woman had attended the previous week's tapings, and she told us about the current champion, Doug from Toledo. Doug had finished the previous "week's" tapings as a two-day champion. "He's really good," the woman informed us. How good? His two-day total was almost $40,000. These were back in the days when a typical champion might finish the day with about $10,000, so an average daily winning of $20,000 was intimidating to say the least. Immediately, the day's prospective challengers did the game-show math: He'd already won twice, he could only win three more times, and the show would tape a total five episodes that day. The lucky contestants would appear in the fourth or fifth show to be taped that day.
Future contestants sit in a special section of the audience while the show is taped. You sit in this "bullpen" until your name is called. The first of the day's tapings was about to begin, and our name was not called. At the time, we felt a little disappointed: Sure Doug from Toledo had amassed an impressive total, but was he really THAT tough? Adrenaline rushed through our veins, but we would have to wait. We felt frustrated.
After the first few minutes of the game, we felt relieved. Doug from Cleveland was a buzzsaw. The other two contestants didn't stand a chance. By the time "Final Jeopardy" came along, Doug had an insurmountable, ridiculous, humiliating lead. When the producers called the names of the next two sacrificial lambs, every prospective contestant was praying not to hear his own name called. We did not hear our own name called. Game two went much the same as game one. As the credits rolled, everyone in the bullpen looked around nervously. We knew two of us were about to be fed to the dragon. Two final victims would have their "Jeopardy!" dreams ignominiously snuffed out, and then the rest of us would stand a chance on a theoretically more-level playing field. We closed our eyes and hoped not to have our name called.
"Would the Solipsist please report to make-up. Solipsist to make-up. Solipsist, you're up!"
(with apologies to ACOS: TO BE CONTINUED)